Bosnia: Tell the Truth

THE lights still left in a tolerant, multiethnic Bosnia seem about to go out. Last week the Serbs and the Croats announced a plan to partition Bosnia along ethnic lines. With the West unwilling to take sides in the 15-month Serbian siege of Bosnia, the aggressors may have their way. The 44-percent Muslim population get 10 percent of the land.

Such an outcome would be a victory for barbarism and set an ugly precedent. Bosnia was a political entity from 1878 to 1918, and has been one from 1945 to today. Forced by the West in 1992 to choose between being annexed to a "Greater Serbia" and gaining recognition, it chose the latter.

Now Western capitals, acting as if there are no other options, seem willing to compromise. European Community leaders and President Clinton are making none of the efforts required to pull Bosnia from the abyss. Their vague support of the Serb-Croat plan actually allows an indefinite continuation of the killing in Bosnia, where a million civilians are still under siege. Sarajevo may be leveled. Yet the British want to say Bosnia's borders will remain intact under Helsinki accords. This is so a partition w ill not seem to be what it is - capitulation.

Our own position has been that in the face of systematic genocide by Serbs against Bosnians, the West must do something. We have suggested everything from air-strikes and volunteer troops under Article 43 of the UN Charter to arming the Bosnians and protecting innocent lives in UN-declared "safe havens" as a minimum. Bosnian president Izetbegovic has begged for such help; there is a UN mandate for it.

What is not acceptable is to do nothing. Yet beyond paltry relief, nothing is what the West has done.

On what grounds is a sovereign nation given over to aggression? Is expediency the new world order?

Serb president Milosevic and Bosnian Serb leader Karadzic are charged with war crimes by the State Department. The No. 2 politician in Serbia, Vojislav Seselj, led "ethnic cleansing" in Bosnia. Serbia's most volatile area - Kosovo, 90 percent Albanian - is led by Arkan whose paramilitary group massacred Bosnians last July.

The only opposition leader, Vuk Draskovic, was recently beaten and hospitalized by Seselj's men and is the only political prisoner in Europe.

It is with these thugs that European leaders and the White House plan to meet and support a partition.

Nor is the nightmare over. Bosnia's partition means war in Croatia can resume. The White House is proud of sanctions on Serbia. Yet Milosevic can use economic chaos as an excuse for a war in Kosovo that could spread.

The White House now calls Bosnia a civil war, an ethnic feud with atrocities committed by all sides. In fact, the war there was engineered by Belgrade as part of Milosevic's "Greater Serbia" strategy dating back to 1987.

If the West will not stop the genocide in Bosnia, it must at least tell the truth about what happened there.

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